I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
A successful sales professional has been trained in time management and will devote a portion of her week to prospecting for new clients. The methods vary but the results are the same. The primary goal is to enhance the client base with qualified accounts that produce revenues for the company. The inexperienced sales agent does not organize her day or week in advance and therefore does not allocate the critical time frame for prospecting.
The amount of time devoted to prospecting weekly depends entirely on the current account base of qualified accounts and the revenue derived from the established accounts. If the current account base is filled with low volume accounts with little to not future potential the amount of focused prospecting should increase to enhance the qualified high volume generating accounts.
There are several methods utilized in each industry to capture market share and develop relationships with new accounts. Telemarketing to qualified account lists that are purchased or derived from historical data is one method. Email campaigns by magnet mail promotions is another method, but I have found the conversion ratio to be a lower percentage than the personal call to a client. Searching your competitor’s websites for existing accounts is another alternative.
I have utilized companies that do the research for you on the selected competitive set in your market or in your region, such as Knowland and Insight in the hospitality industry. This research if utilized by the sales representative in a timely fashion is very productive. Often times research companies are hired by the corporate office to produce the data obtained from accounts the competition has nurtured and the sales representative does not allocate appropriate time management to prospect for this business.
BYOR - Bring Your Own Research
When making a prospecting call it is best to have a plan and do your own research. The successful sales representative will research the potential client on websites such as Linkedin.com or peruse the company’s website to obtain product knowledge or senior staff level contact information. You may have been provided with one specific contact to call but in doing your research you obtain the VP of sales or the purchasing agent.
The service or product you are selling will determine the target company representative to start with in the prospecting process. If you learn about the company you are calling through your research you will have the advantage over many sales representatives that feel calling a volume of accounts is more productive. You will be much more successful if you take the time to plan your call and impress the client with your knowledge of his/her company. I have also researched companies in the Wall Street Journal website or the New York Times for example to learn about new acquisitions or leadership changes. You will be able to help your organization both nationally and internationally by staying current with your accounts new development strategies as they grow throughout a prosperous economic phase. I would also recommend staying current with sales periodicals that discuss new technological break throughs in the field of prospecting.
As I mentioned, the prospecting call should be planned and not scripted in a generic fashion. However, the sales representative that is just starting out should have a checklist as a reference to utilize during the call. This will enable the prospector to remember critical elements of the process to qualify the client to the fullest potential. Often, a sales representative might overlook obvious questions such as: Are you the decision maker; who are you using presently for this service or product; Are there other departments within your organization that would utilize this product or service?
Another aspect of the prospecting call process is the value of tracing the next call within an appropriate timeline based upon the conversation in the recent call. Often this follow-up is overlooked and the account may be lost if not nurtured periodically. Top producers will need to be contacted at least on a monthly basis either by phone or in person. Never take for granted your top accounts will remain loyal to you and your organization. The successful sales professional knows this and will stay focused on the top accounts while developing new accounts or massaging other accounts that have potential in the long term.
To remain competitive know your competition and what new developments they have created or that are in the pipeline. Stay informed of personnel changes and possible expansions in your competitive market. Are they offering any new services or products?
To compete in this era you have to have confidence in your knowledge of the market to highlight your product or service benefits over the competition when delivering a presentation to a new or existing client. Be prepared for a client to state that they utilize ABC Corporation because they offer a service you are not able to provide. How will you overcome that objection if you have not researched this service provided by the competitor and developed a strategy to confidently address this issue?
Prepare for each prospect call. Practice your delivery and set an objective for the desired outcome. Be flexible and develop a comfortable rapport with the client based upon their personality and the amount of time they will allow you to make a presentation. Remember that if possible it is best to deliver a solid presentation in person, but often times the telephone is your best chance initially.
Richard B. Secord is a sales consultant and trainer who can be reached at Liveforsuccess@aol.com or calling 561-951-0722561-951-0722.561-951-07